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Smokey and the CB

secret squirrel

Lustrous Potentate
Oct 5, 2008
Washington, PA
I can not find a definitive answer when I look it up, did police departments ever use CB radios for daily operations and dispatch, like you see in movies and on the TV? Was it really VHF low band 30-50 MHz, and TV Land and Hollywood makes it out to be CB Radio?

Police and fire departments have frequencies set aside by the FCC for just those purposes alone. They use repeater bases to extend the range of mobile and handheld radios, all of them are FM.

40-plus years ago, our local PDs would put a CB in patrol cars, if only to keep up with truckers. There was a CB base in every police precinct here back then, set to channel 9. Can't remember the backronym's root phrase, but it had the acronym "CB E.A.R.S."

Go figure. Pretty sure the precinct CB got squelched way down once the skip fired up. Bit by bit it all fell by the wayside over the decades.

Our vol. fire department, local PD and SO used to monitor Ch.9 but as stated before, this was years ago, especially since cell phones have replaced just about every other form of comms. AL. Troopers still have CBs in most of their patrol cars but stay on 19 listening for traffic about drunk/reckless drivers.
Hollywood makes up stuff out of whole cloth. You simply cannot extrapolate reality based on what they portray. An example would be the movie that depicts feds tracking someone by showing a satellite above earth along with the sound of Morse code sending "CQ." I think that one was in "Enemy Of The State," but not 100 percent sure. Anything from Hollywood that resembles reality in any way is purely coincidental.

As others have noted, some police do have CB radios in their cars as an aid to monitoring traffic. But a movie or TV show depicting police using CB for normal operations does not even indicate that the actual department uses or used low band and Hollywood just got it wrong. I wouldn't be surprised to see that even now, when the actual department uses 800 MHz trunked.

In one "Breaking Bad" scene, Mike Ermantrout calls in a police report on their dispatch frequency. The radio he used was a Galaxy CB. The setting for the show was Albuquerque, NM in 2008-2010. I'm pretty sure they were already using their trunked system then.
here in pa i havent seen any cop cars with a cb antenna for probaly 30 years ..the antennas i see are really short base loaded and guessing nmo mount as theres no visable coax..i know a few yearsago i could find action on the police scanner on about 150mhz and again on about 450 mhz
I actually ran into a group of officers using the CB for some sort of sting operation once. I was pulling into my friends apartment complex and my static disappeared as the vehicle in front of me stopped. I was boxed in between 2 cars and I found the channel they were on as one said "no, that's not the car" and the guy in front me me started moving again. This was in the early 90's.
That's the only time outside of a state trooper that I've encountered a cop on the CB.
Years ago both our local police and the state police that covered our area had CB’s installed in their vehicles and bases, but CB was never used in dispatch or in any official capacity. I helped install a share amount of those CB’s. We even had a state police officer that used a CB walkie as he flew up and down off Interstate 80 in his aircraft, telling truckers, “Slow down I’m watching you.” I don’t know if the FAA would approve of that, but during CB’s hay day numerous people were involved. Our town's Civil Defense used them, and yes, hookers too….
Many years ago the Indiana State Police operated on 42 MHz. Many cities were in the 154-157 MHz, some were up in the 400MHz range as well. Then 800 MHz was the hot place to be and many great systems were sold all across the country. Somewhere between 2012 and 2016 public safety nation wide was re-banded down to 700MHz. So the short answer is no, police were never dispatched over cb radio. Many officers used to install cb radios in their cars on their own, today it's not all that popular in police cars.
So the Dukes of Hazzard cb's aren't real? I'm never watching it again. Oh, I'm never watching "Twister" again either. I feel slided now. (I'm just being silly this post adds no valuable content)

Happy new year all
Funny you would mention "Twister." Back in the '90s when I was managing a radio store, a guy came in looking for an HF mobile rig to put in his stormchaser vehicle for the documentary he was producing. I tried to sell him one of the SGC setups complete with external autotuner and helical whip, but that wasn't in his budget. He ended up buying a Yaesu FT-840, a non-automatic screwdriver antenna, and a large face cross-needle SWR meter. Months later he returned, having finished his documentary, and sold the radio back to me for a fraction of what he paid for it.
He had all sorts of wild stories about the abuse that 840 shrugged off. His technique for retuning the antenna when he had to QSY was to put it on AM at full power, press the MOX button to transmit a continuous carrier, and keep an eye on the meter while he held the switch that operated the antenna. Sometimes while driving 90 mph on backroads, chasing a tornado. One time he got a bit too close and rolled his vehicle.
Through it all, that FT-840 kept working. I resold it to a friend of mine, who probably still has it.
Local police around my parts and Sheriff's dept still use 154-159 mhz analog repeaters and car to car. ISP used to use 42mhz analog. About 15 years ago ISP along with IDOT and IDOC all jumped in bed with Motorola and they use the state wide Starcom21 system now.. I haven't seen a cb antenna on a police car in Illinois in a long time..

Back in the mid 90s all the Troopers had mag mounts for cb. We had a bad snow storm hit one day and I was monitoring ch 9 on my base station. Heard a motorists call out that they had slid off the road and needed pulled out. While I was taking down the location and getting a vehicle description to make a phone call to a towing company for them, a trooper broke into the conversation. He couldn't hear the other guy but could hear my base. I relayed the location and car description to him. Pretty exciting for a young teen home on a snow day from school! Did my good deed for the day.
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